Shugaar’s lyrical translation adds further luster to another entry in what one hopes will be a continuing series of...



An adventurous and troubled boyhood is piquantly detailed in this 2004 novel from a respected Italian author (Between Two Seas, 2008).

It begins one Christmas Eve in the Calabrian town of Hora (“where we old-fashioned form of Albanian”), as a conversation between Tullio, home for the holidays from France (where he works), and his adolescent son Marco, the novel’s primary narrator. This initiates a fragmented narrative that moves backward and forward in time, observing Marco’s delighted immersion in the pleasures of an embracing family and environment, while counterpointing these against Tullio’s memories of the lover (Morena) who bore his eldest daughter (Elisa), but died before they could marry. This sorrow is reborn during Tullio’s subsequent married life when Elisa matures, goes away to college and dallies with a married man, who keeps reappearing in Marco’s experience, sometimes as a friend and mentor, eventually emerging as the danger the suspicious Tullio always believed he would become. The novel is ever so slightly predictable and arguably underplotted. But its picture of life in a rural demi-paradise has real charm, as does Abate’s complex characterization of Marco—all boy, all but irresistible, yet emphatically not idealized (e.g., while recovering from a serious illness, he spitefully alienates himself from everyone he loves). Elisa is, necessarily, less fully revealed, and Tullio’s cryptic ingrained emotions are credibly linked to his mingled pride and guilt over “abandoning” his family in order to provide for them. The result is a compelling family chronicle in lucid miniature form.

Shugaar’s lyrical translation adds further luster to another entry in what one hopes will be a continuing series of publications of Abate’s impressive, immensely engaging fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-933372-83-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: July 9, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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